Deacon-structing Vocations: Discernment

TheThinker

Last week we looked at what Vocation is and what it means to “be called.” Everyone is called to one of four vocations and so at some point in our life, if we want to respond to God’s call, we have to think about where God wants to take us.

Figuring this out may not be easy, but it’s doable. It takes time, prayer, trust, patience and love. Catholics call this “figuring out,” discernment.

Discernment has to do with decision-making. It has to do with distinguishing between several options. We could say that discernment has to do with detecting or perceiving the distinctions between things. It has to do with defining or discriminating between things.

Catholics use the word discernment to describe the process of making important decisions with God. There are many definitions of discernment, but this is my favourite: “A process of prayerful reflection which leads to the understanding of God’s call. It involves listening to God in all the ways that God communicates with us: in prayer, in the Scriptures, through the Church and the world, in personal experience, and in other people.”

God speaks to us in different ways. As the definition above describes, God speaks to us in prayer, through Scriptures, through the Church and the world, through our personal experiences and through those around us. I think that God has a preferred way to communicate with each one of us. In my case, God very clearly communicates to me through other people, through Scriptures and through my past experiences.

God gives us our talents and our desires. God also gives us opportunities. If you have a talent for something, say music, and you also have a desire for that one thing; you desire to play music; you love playing music – and then you God gives you opportunities to play music, then it’s likely that this is an area where God wants you.

At the same time, I don’t know if it matters to God whether we play a guitar or a violin, or whether you are a music conductor or a music teacher. He simply has given you certain gifts and desires, and has given you certain opportunities. What we do with that is up to us.

When you are discerning something, you have to begin by looking at your talents, your desires and the opportunities you’ve had in your life. If I look at my talents and gifts; if I look at what I love to do and what I’m good at doing, those are all indications of what God wants for my life.

Another way to see what God wants for you is to see what opportunities you have. Let’s say that you want to attend a particular university but you win a scholarship to another one – or you have a chance to travel to a different country – maybe God is trying to tell you something. What really works for me is seeing how God has been working in my life: Where have I been? What opportunities and experiences have I had? How has my prayer life been? How do I best hear God communicating with me? These are also good indicators of where God is taking me.

Discernment also involves listening to what others are saying to you. Listening to my family and friends is very important to me. We don’t make decisions on our own and the people who know us, love us and want the best for us can be of great help in finding out what’s good for us. If you have many people telling you that you’d make a great deacon, that should count for something.

Most importantly, you need to be prayerful. (This is why a good spiritual director always asks, “How’s your prayer life?”) After all, discerning is about listening to God’s will. In discerning, we need to speak with God, but most importantly we need to listen to God in prayer.

One way we listen to God is by reading or listening to his Word. Read the Bible. Study the Bible. Learn what God’s plan for humanity and the world is. There’s a good chance that his plan for you has something to do with that.

We also learn about God’s will by learning what the Church teaches. We are not alone in our journey towards Heaven. There is a wealth of information, history, tradition and wisdom that belongs to the Catholic Church. We need to be part of that.

So next time you have to make a big decision, ask your friends and family what they think, pray about it, read the Bible, see what the Church teaches about that particular issue, and see how you feel about it. And take your time. One of Pope Francis’ favourite saints is Peter Faber who said that “time is God’s messenger.” If you follow these guidelines and take your time, you’ll be sure to make the best decision possible.

Discerning our vocation involves the same process. But our vocation is much more important than figuring out whether we’re going to learn a musical instrument or grow up to be a music teacher or conductor. As we said last week, your vocation is not a career or job. It is the best way that each one of us, individually, can respond to God’s call to holiness. There are four ways in which we can respond to the call to holiness. These four are what the Church calls Vocations:

  • Vocation to the single life
  • Vocation to the religious life
  • Vocation to the ordained life
  • Vocation to the married life

Next week we’ll take a look at the Single Life.

Prayer to Our Lady of Sorrows

A Prayer to Our Lady of Sorrows on her feast day, September 15:

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O most holy Virgin, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ: by the overwhelming grief you experienced when you witnessed the martyrdom, the crucifixion, and death of your divine Son, look upon me with eyes of compassion, and awaken in my heart a tender commiseration for those sufferings, as well as a sincere detestation of my sins, in order that being disengaged from all undue affection for the passing joys of this earth, I may sigh after the eternal Jerusalem, and that henceforward all my thoughts and all my actions may be directed towards this one most desirable object. Honor, glory, and love to our divine Lord Jesus, and to the holy and immaculate Mother of God. Amen.

Deacon-structing: The devil 3

stmike

So far we’ve looked at what the Scriptures and tradition tell us about the “prince of darkness”. But is this whole “devil” thing something of the past?

I remember watching the film The Exorcist and thinking that the whole scenario didn’t seem real to me. I don’t think demons sit around behind a tree waiting for some poor little girl to go by so they can jump out to possess her. I think that people have to cooperate with evil. You have to be really far away from God for the devil to be able to attack you like that.

According to Matt Baglio, author of The Rite, possession is the result of a person moving far away from God. He says that over a period of time, if you move far enough away, you make it possible for demons to step in. It’s not hard to move away from God. We may think that we are “religious” but if in our actions and deep beliefs we refuse to give up control of any aspect of our lives to God or have a continue pattern of sin, no matter how small (and remember sin is merely saying no to God), we are, in effect moving away from God. We don’t have to specifically dedicate ourselves to evil or play with Ouija Boards to invite the devil in. However, adds Baglio, if you’ve already begun distancing yourself from God, then playing with the occult will make possession easier.

I remember the first time I baptized a child I noticed that one of the prayers during the Rite of Baptism is called “exorcism”. This of course, does not mean that we believe the child is possessed, but it does mean that we acknowledge that there is evil in the world. During that prayer, the Priest or Deacon commands any impure spirits who might be present to depart from the person to be baptised. Also, remember that Baptism removes our original sin (for more on Baptism read, What is Baptism? and in this prayer we ask that Original Sin be removed:

“Almighty and ever-living God, you sent your only Son into the world to cast out the power of Satan, spirit of evil, to rescue man from the kingdom of darkness, and bring him into the splendor of your kingdom of light. We pray for this child: set him (her) free from original sin, make him (her) a temple of your glory, and send your Holy Spirit to dwell with him (her). We ask this through Christ our Lord.”

So obviously the Church believes in the existence of the devil as real. And if you still have doubts, I’m sure you’ve been around some time when you’ve had to make a “question-and-answer” style profession of Faith, (it happens during the rite of Baptism and during Confirmation – if you’ve been to an Easter Vigil you’ve done it). After we profess our Faith, the priest asks: “Do you reject Satan and all that is evil?” (And the correct answer is “I do” in case you’re wondering.)

Not only does the Church teach that Satan is real, but we believe in demonic possession. In fact, the Catholic Church is the only Christian denomination that prayers or rituals that have to do with expelling demons. I don’t know how common exorcisms are, but I’ve read that one in 5000 cases of reported demonic possession are actually cases of real possession.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines an exorcism:

“When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms (Mk l:25f.) and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcising (Mk 3:15: 6:7, 13: 16:17). In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called ‘a major exorcism,’ can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the Bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. “Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter: treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1172).” (CCC 1673)

In 1998, The 1614 Catholic Rite of Exorcism was updated and now includes a stipulation that no exorcism is to be performed until all other avenues have been exhausted. We have to be careful that we’re not dealing with a mental illness or some other psychological problem. That means that doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists must be consulted first in order to eliminate all medical causes before an exorcism can be considered.

One of the first books I read that had anything to do with exorcisms was M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie. Peck was a psychiatrist who actually became a Christian after he could not medically nor scientifically explain some of his patient’s behaviours or symptoms. In fact Scott Peck diagnosed some of his patients with “demonic possession”. (Another good book by Scott Peck on this topic is Glimpses of the Devil.)

The Roman Ritual of Exorcism lists the criteria for determining whether someone is possessed and requires an exorcism: “Speaking many words in unknown languages or understanding them; revealing distant or hidden things; displaying strength beyond one’s condition, together with a vehement aversion to God, Our Lady, the saints, the cross and sacred images.”

The Church takes possession very seriously. Every Diocese has to have an official exorcist. However, in most cases this is either the bishop or the bishop can appoint a priest as the diocesan exorcist.

It’s easy to get caught up with the drama of possession or exorcisms; however, the real danger of evil is not demonic possession, but rather in being deceived. Remember, Satan is a liar and deceiver. Possession is too obvious. Satan wants to work undetected and is trying really hard to make people believe he is not real. That is probably one of his biggest triumphs. Remember he is a liar.

He also likes to confuse, like making you think that something is good, when in fact it isn’t. A good example of this is making you think that it’s OK not to go to Mass because you need to spend time with your family – and God is really a loving and merciful God who wants you to spend time with your family (which is true and a good thing) and He doesn’t really care if you go to Mass or not (which is not true) – when in fact, going to Mass is very important. (The devil is good a half-truths; things that sound true or are partly true but are not completely true, in order to confuse.)

In short, Satan always wants us to pick something good at the expense of what God has promised… which is always something better.

When thinking about evil we must remember the fact that Jesus’ death defeated Satan forever. “Why is he still around?” you may ask. Maybe we are living what the Book of Revelation says about Satan being allowed to deceive the nations for a little while (Rev 20:7-8). Scott Peck liked to say that the devil has been defeated; we’re just in the clean-up operation.

I don’t know if Satan is on the run. It doesn’t matter. As long as there is God; people can choose “not God”. As long as there is Goodness, Truth and Beauty, people can choose the opposite of those. There is light, but we can always choose the darkness. And sometimes we end up choosing the darkness without really knowing what we are doing.

All of us can choose God or choose the absence of God, which is evil.  But if we choose God, Satan has no real power over us. It is a battle, but in this battle, God is on our side.

That’s why Pope John Paul II asked us to add the Prayer to St. Michael to our daily prayers:

“St. Michael, Archangel defend us in battle.

Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.

May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,

and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Hosts,

by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits

who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls.”

Official Prayer for Pope Francis’ Visit to Korea

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Prayer in Preparation for the Visit of Pope Francis to Korea and for the Beatification of Korean Martyrs

Loving Heavenly Father,
We thank you for the blessings you are bestowing upon the Catholic Church in Korea, 
a church begun without the help of missionaries.
We thank you for the visit of Pope Francis, the apostle of peace, to Korea and for the beatification of Korean martyrs.
Moreover, we thank you for the opportunity of New Evangelization,
with the gathering of the Asian youths for the Asian Youth Day in Korea.

Help us to imitate the spirit of the martyrs and strive with renewed
enthusiasm for the faith so that the Gospel permeate our lives, as
well as the life of the Church and of the society.
Gather us into a community of the culture of life, of charity and
of peace, accompanying our poor neighbors, who suffer and are
neglected, and sharing the light of faith.

Bring about peace on the Korean peninsula through reconciliation and
unity of our people by the power of the Gospel message.
Thus, may we dedicate ourselves to the evangelization of Asia and
let your light and glory shine forth on all the world.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Mary, Immaculately Conceived, and St Joseph, who are patrons of
the Church in Korea,
Pray for us.
All the martyr saints of Korea,
Pray for us.

Prayer originally found on the Pastoral Visit website.

Fr. Federico Lombardi of Vatican Press Office Statement on Christians in Iraq

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Statement of Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ regarding  the situation of Christians in Iraq

August 7, 2014

The Holy Father is following with deep concern the dramatic news reports coming from northern Iraq, which involve defenseless populations. Christian communities are particularly affected: a people fleeing from their villages because of the violence that rages in these days, wreaking havoc on the entire region.

At the Angelus prayer on July 20th, Pope Francis cried with pain: ?[O]ur brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are pushed out, forced to leave their homes without the opportunity to take anything with them. To these families and to these people I would like to express my closeness and my steadfast prayer. Dearest brothers and sisters so persecuted, I know how much you suffer, I know that you are deprived of everything. I am with you in your faith in Him who conquered evil!?

In light of these terrible developments, the Holy Father renews his spiritual closeness to all those who are suffering through this painful trial, and makes the impassioned appeals of the local bishops his own, asking together with them in behalf of their sorely tried communities, that the whole Church and all the faithful raise up with one voice a ceaseless prayer, imploring the Holy Spirit to send the gift of peace.

His Holiness urgently calls on the international community to protect all those affected or threatened by the violence, and to guarantee all necessary assistance ? especially the most urgently needed aid ? to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others.

The Pope also appeals to the conscience of all people, and to each and every believer he repeats: ?May the God of peace create in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is not conquered with violence. Violence is conquered with peace! Let us pray in silence, asking for peace; everyone, in silence…. Mary Queen of peace, pray for us! (Angelus, July 20, 2014)?

Perspectives Daily – Tues. April 8, 2014

Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis appoints a new Bishop for the Diocese of Peterborough, daily mass from Domus Sanctae Marthae and a look at prayer in lent.

Praying for Unity in the New Year

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By The Rev. Dr. Karen A. Hamilton, General Secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches.

Ah, the anticipation builds….

Some of us are anticipating that rustle of tissue paper and scrabble to untie ribbon that is Christmas morning.

Some of us are anticipating the Hope, Peace, Love and Joy that is the reality of the birth of the Prince of Peace.

And some of us are also anticipating the up-coming Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

For only the 3rd time in one hundred years, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity materials will focus on Canada. Sisters and brothers in Christ all around the world will be praying with us and will be praying through words that particularly resonate in our Canadian context.

I am feeling extremely honoured, privileged and quite in awe of the invitations that have been extended to me for this year’s Week of Prayer.

On January 19th, at the invitation of the Calgary Council of Churches, I will be preaching in …wait for it….Calgary. Twice, actually. I will preach at the Sunday morning worship service of one of the member congregations and then in the afternoon at the ecumenical Week of Prayer service. Please pray for me, my brothers and sisters as I discern the Word of God for those two services.

And then on the Monday the 20th, Calgary will launch the new Canadian Council of Churches resource to combat the dire scourge that is human trafficking in this country. The Evangelical Church in Canada has ordered 550 copies of the resource so as to distribute them to every one of their parishes. It is available on our website and/or by calling our CCC offices 416.972.9494 ext. 21.

Most surely, our God who sees each sparrow fall is calling us to action so that children, women and men will not be trafficked any longer in this country or around the world.

Last, but most certainly not least, on January 26th I have the almost over-whelming privilege of preaching in Rome! I have been invited to be the preacher for the English language Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in ‘the Eternal City’. Watch for my posts on Facebook and Twitter about this momentous event. I cherish your prayers.

The Blessings of our Eternal God incarnate in Jesus Christ and present to us in the vibrant movement of the Spirit be with us all.

Ecumenical Service 2014 – Made in Canada from Centre canadien d’oecuménisme on Vimeo.

In the End, Judgment Belongs to God

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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C – October 27, 2013

Last Sunday’s Gospel focused on the necessity of prayer (Luke 18:1-8). The second of two parables in Chapter 18:9-15 condemns the self-righteous, critical attitude of the Pharisee and teaches that the fundamental attitude of the Christian disciple must be the recognition of sinfulness and complete dependence on God’s graciousness.

Today’s Gospel parable recalls Luke’s story of the pardoning of the sinful woman (7:36-50) where a similar contrast is presented between the critical attitude of the Pharisee Simon and the love shown by the pardoned sinner.

One of Luke’s favorite themes, the reversal brought about by the coming of Jesus, is beautifully illustrated in today’s Gospel. The story of the Pharisee and the tax collector is directed to a particular kind of people: those who were law-abiding in their own eyes but who looked down on everyone else. The Pharisee, a member of the group of the so-called righteous, prayed “with himself,” and the whole prayer he gives is focused on himself and his good works. He is a legend unto himself, shining in his own eyes, especially as he compares himself to the tax collector, the one who belonged to the despised group in society.

The great distance

The tax collector knew that he wasn’t any good. He couldn’t reverse the cheating he had done. Acts of penance, like trying to pay back the people he had cheated, wouldn’t really help. He couldn’t expect people to excuse or forgive him. The only thing he knew was that it was only possible to admit his guilt when he came and brought it before God. That God would forgive him, he didn’t dare to hope. And it was only in this way that he was able to experience Jesus’ word to him, “You are good because I have accepted you.”

In the parable we are told that the tax collector stood at a great distance. This great distance separating the two people is not only a matter of geographical or physical distance, but rather of the great distance in their status in society and in their attitudes. When the tax collector prays, he cries out to God, begging him for mercy. In the end, judgment belongs to God.

The provocative story warns us of our own behavior in prayer, word and deed. This parable was a shock to its first hearers. If anyone in Judaism would not go home from the temple justified, it would be a tax collector. One who worked for a foreign government collecting taxes from his own people, a participant in a harsh and corrupt system, politically a traitor, religiously unclean, a publican, was a reprehensible character. While his prayer was in the spirit of the Miserere (Psalm 51), his life was offensive.

Doing justice to the parable

The Pharisee is not a venomous villain and the publican is not the generous, common man or woman. To reduce these characters to caricatures does not do justice to the parable. If the Pharisee is pictured as a villain and the tax collector a hero, then each gets what he deserves, there is no surprise of grace and the parable is stripped of its real meaning. The meaning of the story is not that all Pharisees are by their nature false, dishonest, proud and arrogant, and that all tax collectors are really poor, humble, truthful people deep down inside. Luke tells us that to set oneself apart from “the rest” is to go home unjustified, unapproved and ungraced by God.

In Jesus’ parable, what each person receives is “in spite of,” not “because of.” When the two men are viewed in terms of character and community expectations, without labels or prejudice, the parable still shocks us, and still carries the power both to offend and bless. We cannot preach about this parable and depict the characters in such a way that people go out the doors of our Churches this day saying to themselves, and perhaps to others, “Thank God I am not like the Pharisee.” It is possible that the reversal could be reversed!

The prayer of the lowly is heard

The words of today’s first reading from Sirach (35:12-14, 16-18) are most fitting to understand the spirit required of us in today’s Gospel parable: “The one who serves God willingly is heard; his petition reaches the heavens. The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right, and the Lord will not delay.”

Paul’s life poured out like a libation

Today’s Second Letter of Timothy (4:6-8, 16-18) offers us an important insight into St. Paul’s ministry. Paul, in prison in Rome, saw death approaching and sketched an evaluation full of recognition and hope. He was at peace with God and with himself and faced death serenely, in the knowledge that he had spent his whole life, sparing no effort, at the service of the Gospel. Paul knew that his death through martyrdom was imminent. He regards it as an act of worship in which his blood will be poured out in sacrifice (cf. Exodus 29:38-40; Philippians 2:17). At the close of his life Paul could testify to the accomplishment of what Christ himself foretold concerning him at the time of his conversion, “I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name” (Acts 9:16).

Having spent the past two weeks in Rome preparing for and taking part in the canonization ceremonies of six new saints for the Church on Sunday, Oct. 17, the memory of Peter and Paul hovers mightily over this city. Peter and Paul, each with his own personal and ecclesial experience, testify that the Lord never abandoned them, even amid the harshest trials. The Lord was with Peter to deliver him from the hands of his opponents in Jerusalem; he was with Paul in his constant apostolic endeavors to communicate to him the strength of his grace, to make him a fearless proclaimer of the Gospel for the benefit of the nations (2 Timothy 4:17).

Paul modeled his life on Jesus Christ. During the Last Supper, Jesus had already anticipated the event of Calvary. He accepts the death on the cross and with his acceptance transforms the act of violence into an act of giving, of self-giving poured forth, “Even if I am to be poured out as a libation on the sacrificial offering of your faith,” Paul says on the basis of this and in regard to his own imminent martyrdom in Philippians 2:17. At the Last Supper the cross is already present, accepted and transformed by Jesus.

To live in constant intimacy with God

In conclusion, I offer you an excerpt of Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to seminarians that was published on Oct. 18, 2010. Though written on the occasion of the conclusion of the Year of Priests last June, the rich, personal, Papal message speaks to all of us in light of today’s Scripture readings:

“Anyone who wishes to become a priest must be first and foremost a ‘man of God,’ to use the expression of St. Paul (2 Timothy 6:11). For us God is not some abstract hypothesis; he is not some stranger who left the scene after the “big bang.” God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. In the face of Jesus Christ we see the face of God. In his words we hear God himself speaking to us. It follows that the most important thing in our path towards priesthood and during the whole of our priestly lives is our personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ.

“The priest is not the leader of a sort of association whose membership he tries to maintain and expand. He is God’s messenger to his people. He wants to lead them to God and in this way to foster authentic communion between all men and women. That is why it is so important, dear friends, that you learn to live in constant intimacy with God. When the Lord tells us to ‘pray constantly,’ he is obviously not asking us to recite endless prayers, but urging us never to lose our inner closeness to God.

“Praying means growing in this intimacy. So it is important that our day should begin and end with prayer; that we listen to God as the Scriptures are read; that we share with him our desires and our hopes, our joys and our troubles, our failures and our thanks for all his blessings, and thus keep him ever before us as the point of reference for our lives. In this way we grow aware of our failings and learn to improve, but we also come to appreciate all the beauty and goodness, which we daily take for granted and so we grow in gratitude. With gratitude comes joy for the fact that God is close to us and that we can serve him.”

May the Lord make us better servants who do what we ought, never focusing on being better than or above others, but recognizing our obligation to be greater servants to others, precisely because we have been given so much, forgiven so much, and blessed so much. May God grant us generous hearts as we serve Him and love him in others! To him be glory forever and ever.

[The readings for 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time are Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18; Psalm 34; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14.]

This reflection first appeared on the Zenit International News Service in 2010 as well as on the Salt + Light Blog. The complete collection of reflections for Year B, entitled “Words made Flesh,” is now available in book form through our online store. Book editions for Year A and C reflections are coming soon.

My Little Teacher

Former Salt and Light producer Mary Rose Bacani wrote this post for Fathers for Good website, an initiative of the Knights of Columbus. Her husband, Richard Valenti is a senior editor with Salt and Light.

To have the heart of another human being beating inside of you is an absolutely life-changing experience. Thus, when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter three years ago, my life changed in ways I did not expect, becoming simpler yet bigger at the same time.

I had travelled to different parts of the world as a television producer – from North America to Australia, from Europe to the Middle East. In my new job as a stay-at-home mom, the farthest I have to travel is from the kitchen to the bedroom and back. My previous job entailed interviewing high-profile people. Today, I am the one interrogated by a two-and-a-half year old toddler. Her sense of wonder invites me to enjoy the possibilities of whatever is in front of me.

Valenti Family

One morning, she looked at my face for a few seconds and then said, “Tell me the story of your eyes.”

I was taken aback. “What do you mean?”

She clarified. “What is your eyes’ name?”

I assumed she meant to ask what color my eyes are, so I replied, “My eyes are dark brown.”

She responded, “My eyes are brown, too.” Then turning toward the kitchen window, she said, “What is cat looking at?”

I turned around to see if our neighbor’s cat had come to visit, but I see only the wooden cat decor on the window sill. “I think cat is looking at your lunch bag. Maybe he likes the color green. Or maybe he wants a snack.”

“Please tell me the story of cat and the lunch bag.”

And on and on it went. After a long breakfast, she helped me bring the dirty dishes to the kitchen counter. She waited patiently until I finish washing.

“Do you want to ‘play me’? With Bear-Bear and Little Girl? And read a book?”

All it takes for my daughter to be happy is for me to be with her. Paradoxically, this is both my joy and my cross. I love her so much and enjoy being with her, yet sitting with her can make me feel guilty and useless. Shouldn’t I be running around tackling my to-do list – from laundry to cooking to emails to bills to mowing the lawn? I’ve had to train myself to sit with my daughter for at least an hour every morning and just focus on being with her. And then I take a short break to do something. I’ve been learning to live life differently from what I was used to. My daughter is teaching me to live simply.

When she was 1-month old, I remember complaining to my spiritual director that I had no time to pray. My newborn was demanding all of my time and energy.

What he said has continued to transform my life. “When you’re breastfeeding your baby, just holding her in silence, you are praying. Enjoy that moment of ‘being’ and you are entering into prayer. Don’t worry about what else you could be doing. Enjoy holding her close to you and just being. Your own daughter is just enjoying being. Let her teach you how to be closer to God.”

In April, my husband and I found out that we’re pregnant again. I’m happy that another beautiful child will be part of our family, and yet I am sad. I will have to let go of my daughter and make space for another life. How can I possibly love this second child as much as I love her?

Slowly, I’m realizing that the love this baby will experience will just be different. For one thing, my daughter is there to love her, too, not just my husband and me. My daughter has been so involved with the growing life in my womb. She’s heard the baby’s heartbeat, seen the baby on a monitor, and has measured my belly with the midwife. At night, she asks the baby in my belly to come out soon. So it is obvious that there will be a different dynamic in the home, a bigger community of love.

I also expect to have even less time to tackle a freelance project, let alone comb my hair! And yet I feel completely happy, whole, and fulfilled. The heart of what I did professionally and what I loved about my work was telling stories. Ironically, I’ve never been pressured as much as I am pressured now by my child to come up with stories. Where are the earthworms hiding today? Did the bubble get hurt when it popped? I am doing what I love – learning, teaching, studying, storytelling, and being and being loved for just being. I cannot complain.

- See more at: http://www.fathersforgood.org/ffg/en/husband_wife/archive/little_teacher.html#sthash.33idrCSL.dpuf

 
Article and Photo courtesy of Fathers for Good

S+L LIVE Broadcast of Pope Francis’ Prayer Vigil for Peace in Syria

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On this worldwide day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, Salt and Light is pleased to broadcast the Vigil of Prayer with Pope Francis LIVE from St. Peter’s Square beginning at 1pm ET / 10am PT. You can tune in either by watching our television network or viewing our live stream at saltandlighttv.org/live.

For more information on why we fast and pray for peace:
http://saltandlighttv.org/blog/fr-thomas-rosica/day-of-prayer-and-fasting-for-peace-in-syria

The following is a special prayer for peace in Syria composed by Catholics Confront Global Poverty, a joint initiative of the USCCB and Catholic Relief Services:

God of Compassion,
Hear the cries of the people of Syria,
Bring healing to those suffering from the violence, Bring comfort to those mourning the dead, Strengthen Syria’s neighbors in their care and welcome for refugees, Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms, And protect those committed to peace.

God of Hope,
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence and to seek reconciliation with enemies, Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria, And give us hope for a future of peace built on justice for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ,
Prince of Peace and Light of the World, Amen.

Petition: For the people of Syria, that God may strengthen the resolve of leaders to end the fighting and choose a future of peace. Let us pray to the Lord.

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)